Best known for influential films like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray, Baltimore native John Waters ’58 has carved a career out of constantly reinventing himself. Over the past 60 years, he has made stand-out controversial films, performed spectacular one-man shows, and wowed viewers with acclaimed visual art collections.
As an author, he has written nine books and is working on a tenth – and at the foundation of everything he does, there are lessons learned from Calvert School.
“It was the only school I ever liked that I went to. I should have quit school in Sixth Grade,” Waters said during last night’s event. "In grade school, I got the knowledge that I needed to do almost everything I do today.”
Waters, who grew up in nearby Lutherville, remembers learning to write different kinds of letters, keeping all of them in his binder – the folder papers he still has – and decorating it with artistic covers. He remembers learning to write in multiple styles and adding humor to his work. Now an engaging performer, he can trace his public speaking skills back to Tuscany Road.
“I guess that Calvert stuff stuck with me in some way, no matter how much I tried to rebel,” he told the Calvert community. “Those basic things I learned there are still there. I always say, you have to learn the rules of good taste to make fun of bad taste.”
Members of the Class of 1958, whose memories of “Johnny” include sleepovers, puppet shows, records shops, and black skinny jeans, raised more than $5,000 to sponsor last night’s event and support Calvert’s arts program. They shared their well wishes and favorite memories in a video that aired before his Q&A.
In their opinion, Waters was – and still is – “Mr. Rock-N-Roll.”
“There’s a line from Shakespeare, ‘To thine own self be true.’ Nobody that I know is truer to those words than John Waters,” Bob Locke ’58 said. “John Waters knew exactly who he was the moment he walked into Calvert School, and he is still that exact same person.”
During the virtual event, which featured live questions from parents and alumni, Waters also spoke about his experiences making Hairspray, grappling with the Civil Rights Movement he witnessed as a teenager, and working on his upcoming book, a novel called Liarmouth.
As the night closed, Waters also announced the winners of eight exciting raffle prizes, including an overnight stay at the Four Seasons, dinner at Tagliata, and collector sets of his books and movies.
Thanks to Penza Bailey Architects, Delbert Adams Construction Group, and the Class of 1958 for sponsoring A Night with John Waters ’58 – and thank you to all parents, friends, and alumni who attended!